Freie Universität Berlin
Institute of Theater Studies
(Spring 2016)

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Course Description:

Anthropologist James Clifford has described ethnography as a process that “translates experience into text.” While that may sound quite simple, the transformation of lived experience into a text – making “ethno” into “graphic” – involves many layers of interpretation, sense making, selection and exclusion, and the imposition of a point of view. Performance studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines “performance” in its many incarnations: from theatre, dance, music, and visual art, to individual and group actions and behaviors in everyday life; from folklore and the media, to political speeches, rituals, celebrations, and acts of activism. Performance studies helps us to complicate our own assumptions about embodiment, spectatorship, agency, difference, community, speech, and public art. This course is designed to explore the intersections of performance and ethnography as a rich source of both academic and creative practice. The course will introduce students to central theoretical and ethical issues involved in “lived” research and the technical challenges of documenting performance with its inherent and vexing ephemerality. Students will themselves engage in the theory and practice of ethnographic research in order to develop skills in critical and creative collaboration and to better understand ways in which different performance methodologies can contribute to discussions of important political and social issues.